Booker leads charge to get college students to vote after Florida shooting
WASHINGTON — After student activists organized last month’s marches for stronger gun laws, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said there was a way they could have an even bigger impact: Register and vote.
Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., introduced legislation Wednesday requiring colleges to take a more active role in making students eligible to vote.
“The greater the engagement of students, the more they’re going to shape the politics,” Booker said at a press conference on the U.S. Capitol grounds. “A lot of the issues are front and center for young people are not front and center for the people in the United States Senate or House.”
The February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, led to a surge in activism among students upset that the Republican-controlled Congress has failed to take any action to make harder for people like the one who gunned down 17 people to get weapons.
“Some of the greatest movements in history have been driven by young people,” Booker said. “From the Freedom Riders of the 1960s to the Vietnam War protesters of the 1970s to the most recent student activism sweeping the country around gun violence – our nation’s young people have continuously pushed our country to a better, more just, and more progressive future.”
The lawmakers were joined by students from several colleges, including April Nicklaus of East Windsor, a junior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
“Just by having more young people vote, we’re building the next generation of our democracy,” Nicklaus said.
The bill would require colleges to send emails to students to remind them of registration deadlines and appointing a campus coordinator to answer questions and help them through the process.
Under existing law, colleges already must help students register to vote, but this bill will strengthen their obligations to do so and penalize those who don’t.
In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won 56 percent of the votes from those aged 18 to 24, but that group accounted for just 10 percent of the electorate, according to network exit polls. Donald Trump received 52 percent of those 65 and older, and they accounted for 16 percent of the votes cast.
“You folks have got to get involved in the game,” Krishnamoorthi said. “You already are but now you have to vote. When you vote, you count. People up there, they count the numbers, they count people who vote and then they make policy accordingly.”
Author: Jonathan D. Salant, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com